Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sexual Reproductive Health Services In Northern Region Beset With Challenges

It is left with four (4) years for member countries of the United Nations to attain goals 4 and 5 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are among other eight set targets, but it appears Ghana is not doing well enough to achieve these goals.

Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions such as poverty and hunger, universal basic education, gender equity, child health, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnership. The MDGs 4 and 5 actually aims at reducing by two-thirds the ratio of under-five mortality rate and reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015.

However, government’s budget allocation for contraceptives mostly used by women according to NORSAAC, a non-governmental organization, has dwindled over the years, without government giving any recourse to the consequences or the effects of the non-availability of those commodities. Statistics from the NGO revealed that between 2003 and 2010, government’s contribution towards the purchase of contraceptives was averagely below 25% while huge support from donors’ ranged from 59% to 89%. So, in the event that the donors withdraw their support, what that means is that, Ghana is going to face a very serious challenge with regards to managing reproductive health issues which already is on the negative side.

Other statistics available also estimates that the practice of family planning in the region was 26% in 2008, 28.8% in 2009 and 24.3% in 2010. According to statistics from the Public Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), in 2008, a total of 5,764 men in the region were practicing family planning, whiles in 2009, the figure rose to 10,717 men. In 2010, there was a decline in the number, from over 10,000 to a little over 8,500, which is an indication that less number of men were practicing family planning in that year.

As a result, there is growing uncontrolled child-bearing and sexual habits among the people of the region most especially adults or married couples. According to the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), only 6% of married women in the region between 15 and 49 years used contraceptives. This, coupled with strong sexual desire among adolescents is further contributing to more teenage pregnancies which could have been avoided through the use of condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Besides, the number of children between the ages of 1 and 15 constitute about 47% of the total population of the whole region, and about 23% of young girls between ages 12 and 19 are already mothers or are currently pregnant. Currently, the average number of children per every single woman in the region is 6.8% representing about 7 children per woman as against the maximum national figure of 4 children per a woman, according to the GDHS.

Also, in 2009, 96 women died in the region during childbirth, 91 in 2008 while 115 women died in 2007, according to the GHS. So, as the deadline (2015) for the achievement of the MDGs 4 and 5 targets approaches, the situation becomes more worrying to all stakeholders in the health sector.

Thus, health authorities in the Northern Region currently attributes the acute cases of maternal and infant mortality rates to the drastic reduction in the number of midwives and other critical health personnel.

Speaking at a media soiree organized by the Northern Regional Chapter of the Coalition of NGOs in Health in Tamale, Janet Ackon, a Public Health Nurse at the Reproductive and Child Health Unit of the Tamale Sub-Metro Hospital, called on the government to increase the number of midwifery training schools or admission of students to these colleges in the region in order to boost the current number of midwives in the system.

She said at present the region has only one midwifery school (Tamale Nursing and Midwifery Training College), a situation that is negatively affecting child delivery in hospitals across the region.

The program which was on the theme: “Sexual And Reproductive Health Services And Rights,” was aimed at creating a platform for the media, the coalition and health service providers in the region to work together effectively to bring about enormous improvement in healthcare delivery especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health.

Madam Ackon said most of the midwives currently in active service in the region were old and would soon go on retirement, hence the need for adequate measures to be put in place to replace them. Ghana faces the danger of not meeting the MDGs on maternal and infant mortality if the leadership fails to address the situation, she stressed.

Mrs. Ninang Albertina, a Public Health Nurse at the Savelugu/Nanton District Hospital also observed that the nursing profession was in danger because most of the personnel were practicing out of personal considerations and not the desire to save lives or show love and care to the sick.

According to her, there was the need for intensive education to re-orient parents’ way of thinking and those entering the profession to know that nursing was of service and self sacrifice and not for personal gains.

Mrs. Catherine Mwine of the GHS also encouraged parents to discuss sexual matters with their children to help reduce wrong sexual behaviours among the youth.

She said lack of resources to carry out outreach programs on adolescent health and funds to train health personnel were some of the challenges hindering effective healthcare delivery.

Meanwhile, Mr. Moses Azabu, Regional Chairman of the Coalition said there was the need for adequate funding for NGOs to carry out their work effectively. He, therefore, appealed to donor partners and philanthropists to come to the aid of NGOs in the Northern Region.

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